God's Purposes And Man's Devices

If we look closely into that portion of Abraham’s history which has lately engaged our attention, we shall find much matter for profitable thought therein.

It is among the sayings of the wisest of men—“There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” (Pro_19:21.) Not only Scripture history, but the history of the world, is full of evidences of this serious and important truth: it is written as with a sunbeam throughout creation and in the whole state of man. Yet there is scarcely any truth which we so habitually forget or overlook. It is well, therefore, that we should suffer our minds to dwell upon every circumstance in our experience or our reading, and especially in our reading of God’s Word, which may serve to impress so great a fact in man’s history—so great a fact in the history of every one of us—as this, upon our remembrance. We have had before us a circumstance of this character—for it seems that Abraham, acting without sufficient reference to the will of God, which he might have ascertained, marks out for himself what must have seemed a very sagacious and politic course of proceeding; but this course of conduct not only does not produce the effect he contemplated and desired, but is in all respects attended by the very results which be most dreaded and labored to avert. Nothing of all that had been devised remained unshaken, save the counsel of God.

Thus, in the first place, by leaving the land of Cancan for Egypt, the patriarch expected that he might abide there in tranquillity until the period of the famine had passed away. But the result was far otherwise. He was compelled to quit Egypt after a very short stay, and to return to the famine-stricken land, where God—“whose eye is upon them that  fear Him, upon them that hope in his mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine” (Psa_33:18-19)—sustained him and his numerous family in ease and plenty.

Again, the evil which Abraham apprehended with respect to Sarah, did indeed happen—but it was brought about by the very means he had taken to avert it; and there is every reason to suppose that, had he from the first boldly declared that she was his wife, relying upon the protection of God, nothing of the kind would have taken place; as it was, this very device of passing her off for his sister, which was designed to secure his safe sojourn amid the plenty of Egypt, became the very instrument of compelling his return to the dearth of Canaan.

Now, let us not whisper to our own hearts that we are, in this at least, wiser than Abraham. Alas, it is not so. There are few of us whose wisest things are wiser than the foolishness of Abraham. Do we not every day speculate with confidence upon the results of this or that undertaking or course of action? Do we not every day calculate, with little misgiving, that this or that course of proceeding towards another, or with reference to particular circumstances, can hardly fail to produce the effect we have in view? But does it? Seldom more so than in the case of Abraham. There are few, if any, whose course of action in any particular matter has produced the effect they had in view, or has yielded all the fruit they expected to gather from it. There are few, if any, whose prosperity, whose comfort, whose safety, has grown out of their own carefully planned and deliberated measures; few, if any, who do not know that their advantages have proceeded from circumstances which they never had in view, which formed no part of their own plans, and over which their own course of action had no conceivable influence. Many of us may have been enabled to do something wiser, greater, better, than ever entered our mind—but this has not only often been without the consent of our  own judgment, but upon strong compulsion and contrary to the tendencies of our will.

What shall we say to these things? There is nothing better than that a man should live in the feeling that it is not to be his purpose, but the purpose of God, that must stand sure. He may have plans and designs—indeed the business of life cannot well go on without them; but he must know that God is not bound by his plans, and is under no obligation to bestow His prospering blessing upon them. God has a plan of his own for every one of us. If our plans agree with his, well—He may bless them; but if not, He will either make them promote the purpose which He intends, and which we did not intend, or will try our faith by blasting our beloved plans altogether—that He may bless us in his own way, and lead us to safety, to usefulness, to blessedness, by paths that we know not of, and by ways that never did enter or could enter our minds. Let us not, therefore, be discouraged, if our plans do not answer to our minds—if everything turns wrong upon our hands. We know that He is not unkind; we know that He does not forget us; and we have reason to hope that He only brings our own small plans and devices to naught because He has something of his own—something larger—something far better—in store for us. How many are they to whom God has not spoken comfortably, until He lured them into the wilderness, where the soul, withdrawn from amid the ruins of its broken plans and frustrated hopes, is alone with Him, sees Him alone, leans on Him only.

Oh, for the blessedness of that man who has been enabled to realize the most entire conviction—and that not as a theory but as a practical truth—that God doeth all things well, and that His work is perfect! The grinding and low cares of this life, have no place with him. He knows that all his affairs are guided by One who cannot err—that he is watched over for good by One who is never weary. Human friends may weary of him, and shake him off, if he becomes troublesome by his wants; but he heeds it little—his God invites, solicits, is gratified by the entireness of his dependence, and  by the full and undivided burden of his cares. Strange it is that we are so slow to claim the rights thus given to us, and which we ought to regard as inestimable privileges. Yet how few are they, known to any of us, who do truly realize the many precious promises and gracious invitations to do that which can alone make this life tolerable. How few are they who realize experimentally the declaration of the prophet: O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” Note: Jer_10:23.] Or this: “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He giveth his beloved sleep.” Note: Psa_127:1-2.]
May God give to us that sleep—that perfect rest amid all the labors, turmoils, and cares of life, which only his beloved can know, because they only have unreserved confidence in Him, and can trust their bodies no less than their souls to his care.